Wednesday, February 01, 2006

CNY At The Preschool In The 'Burbs

It's Chinese New Year Time. And, admittedly this year beyond other years it is a bigger deal in our house. This is probably in part due to the influence from the Chinese Language School we attend on Sundays. Ava has been presented with Hong Bao by a respected Chinese friend. We are learning Gong Xi Gong Xi and Xin Nin Hao songs. We attended the big Chinese Community Center event this weekend. We have plans to go to the FCC event this weekend. We have had a decent amount of CNY traffic here in our little corner of the 'burbs so far. Oh, but in the interest of full disclosure, I have cleaned nothing. Although, I made a valiant attempt to catch up on laundry yesterday. May the kitchen gods and laundry angels be with this adoptive mom.

So, naturally when the other adoptive mom in Ava's preschool classroom asked me if I wanted to join in a CNY presentation for the kids I hopped on the wagon. Perfect, we could share some of Ava's and LBF's heritage with her classmates, eat a lotus puff and still be off to Starbucks before preschool let out for the day. Super. I can taste my vanilla latte already.

Or is this a good idea? I've been downloading CNY preschool ideas from like a mad woman. Honestly, downloading craft projects from nick jr. for the most esteemed Chinese holiday seems, well...weird at best. I have picked out the perfect book. I have music from Chinese School. I have Hong Bao for the children. LBF's mom is getting the chocolate money.

So all this is fine and dandy. But this year I am having second thoughts. Is this the best way to handle educating white suburban preschoolers about Chinese New Year? Am I the right person to be presenting the information? I never celebrated CNY as a kid. What do I know?

I suppose all of this sort of came to the surface for me when I was speaking with LBF's mom. She will be co-facilitating. She had some wonderful fun ideas for the kids. But I am not convinced that they are really part of CNY. For example, hong bao. Traditionally, the red envelopes are presented by adult family members to children in the family. LBF's mom thought it would be fun to hide the envelopes around the room and then have the kids find the lucky money. Well, that sounds like an American Easter Egg hunt. Not Chinese New Year. I said "no can do" and explained my reasoning. Then the idea of a parade came up. Hum...well yes I think I remember something about a parade at CNY time but I don't know the details. Yes, friends of our just went to see the CNY parade in Chicago this past weekend.

STOP. This is where I am just not sure I should be the one presenting someone else's culture and heritage. Perhaps I am completely overthinking the situation. The kids are 4 after all. And, isn't some acknowledgment of Chinese New Year and it's rich history better than the normal dinosaur coloring book page that they would have been working on? Isn't there some possibility that the kids families will see the cool zodiac book I am sending home? Wouldn't it be great if it fostered conversation about China? Am I completely naive? Don't answer that.

So, I guess in the end I am not ready to call the whole thing off. I am just sort of having weird feelings assuming that two shockingly white moms could present the facts, ambiance, feelings and whole picture centered around Chinese New Year. I think that I will do my best this year. Then perhaps I will invite someone from the Chinese Community Center next year.

I gotta say, this is one of those toss ups. When we wanted a baby, we just wanted a baby. We couldn't have cared less if she had come to us with purple spots and green hair. I did not fully come to grips with the how to handle some of the other issues like trying to respect her grandfather's purple spots and green hair. Again, naive I know.


Lee-Anne said...

Perrin, Luv, I think you're thinking too much!!! Although - I see your point, with wanting CNY to be authentic. Maybe your Chinese family friend could come and talk? Like they say - get it straight from the horse's mouth (I'm in no way insinutating that your friend has any ressemblances to a horse!)
BTW, I'm glad Ava came from China, and doesn't have purple spots and green hair!!!

Traci said...


You probably are over thinking this but I think that your points are valid. We celebrated this year and I felt the same type of feelings. First of all, I'm sure that the FCC get together that we attended is a primarily caucasion and very western acknowledgement of CNY, at best. I can only guess that it does not resemble anything like the real celebration.

Your point about contacting someone who truly knows the traditions and having them visit the schools with you is an awesome idea. Necessary? Probably not, but I think it would really add to the experience for the kids (and you.)

White girl raised in the good ol' USA with no knowledge of CNY, before 3 years ago, can't possibly do it justice. Although, you are probably way ahead of many of us due to the exposure that you receive at the Chinese school.

Good food for thought. I have to tell you that when our friend walked in our house with a "bowl full of oranges" last Saturday I thought it was strange. That was until I started reading the books that she brought. That's when I got it.

So much to learn and take in. Thanks for your perspective.